Name: John DeDakis
Book Title: Bullet in the Chamber
Publisher: Strategic Media Books
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
John: I came up with the title and the image for the cover a few days after my youngest son Stephen, 22, went missing in 2011. He was found dead in my car a week later, the victim of an accidental heroin overdose. The image of a bullet in a syringe is my way of conveying the Russian-roulette dangerousness of injecting heroin even once.
But Bullet in the Chamber merely fictionalizes Stephen’s story, and folds it into a bigger picture. My protagonist, Lark Chadwick, 28, is a White House correspondent for the Associated Press. It’s her first day on the beat when the executive mansion is attacked, the president is missing, the first lady’s life is in danger, and the man Lark loves disappears. So, in addition to being about drugs, it’s also about drones and journalism.
My decision to become a writer goes back to when God was a boy, or at least an adolescent.
I’d been a reporter for many years, including a stint as a White House correspondent during the last three years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, but then I went behind the camera as an editor at CNN. It paid well, but it was tedious, not creative. That’s when I turned to writing.
At first, the project was a biography about a friend who’d been murdered. But the research was time-consuming, expensive, and the information I was digging up caused his family much consternation. So, I segued to fiction and rolled some of that research into my first novel.
Is Bullet in the Chamber your first book?
John: It’s my fourth in the Lark Chadwick series. Each book stands alone, so you can begin reading the series with “Bullet” and not feel lost. But I hope “Bullet” entices you to read the others. You can find out more about the series on my website: www.johndedakis.com
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
John: My first two novels were published by ArcheBooks, a small indie house. The books are print-on-demand, so they’re often mistakenly presumed to be self-published. My agent, Barbara Casey, found a new home for my next two novels at Strategic Media Books, another small indie that takes a more traditional approach.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
John: I was a just-the-facts-ma’am journalist for forty-five years (25 at CNN), so when I turned to writing fiction, I decided to try the traditional route of getting an agent. That’s because I felt I needed someone other than my mother or my wife to fall in love with my writing. I reasoned that if a stranger who’s a professional loves my work, then I must be doing something right.
My first novel went through fourteen major revisions over ten years before I found Barbara— the 39th agent I queried. For me, going the self-publishing route would have been a last resort.
The pros far outweigh the cons. Barbara’s been my agent since 2004. She’s an author and an editor, plus she knows the business. Whenever I need to talk with her, she’s available with wise and helpful counsel.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
John: Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was learning that all publishers now expect the author to take the primary (and sometimes the exclusive) responsibility to promote their work. The good news for me is that I actually enjoy the marketing side. But the downside of that is that it can be a time suck and heavily encroach on the writing process.
I’ve also come to see that self-publishing is a worthy pursuit, especially if you’re writing something that might appeal only to a sliver of the population. All too often, however, I feel that people turn to self-publishing prematurely, before they’ve taken enough time to buff and polish their initial drafts. Their impatience to get published (or perhaps insecurity about the quality of their work) causes them to shunt themselves down a path that might be a discouraging dead end.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
John: I recommend that before you pursue getting published at all you become as good a writer as you can possibly be. That means you should:
- Read books about writing
- Go to writer’s conferences to learn about the writing craft, the publishing industry, and to meet authors, agents, and publishers
- Get honest feedback on your writing from people who will tell you the truth about what isn’t working (but who’ll encourage you, too)
Only after you’ve done all of the above should you even consider trying to get published. That’s because if you prematurely send out shoddy, unprofessional work, you won’t be taken seriously as a writer— and, consequently, you won’t get published.
When you’re ready to find a home for your writing, I strongly suggest you get a directory of literary agents (type “literary agents” in the Amazon browser and you’ll get a long list of books). A good directory will tell you which agents are interested in your genre and how they want to be approached.
I feel trying to get an agent is more effective than querying a publisher directly because most publishers prefer to deal with agents they already know and whose judgment they trust.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
John: Don’t give up. If you do, you’re guaranteed not to be published. If you keep trying, there’s always a chance. And, with self-publishing, getting your book into print is a certainty, but it might not be a good book if it doesn’t get the editorial oversight that comes via the more traditional route.